Aug 17, 8:48 AM EDT

Fewer Americans applied for jobless aid last week, as the number of people seeking benefits remained close to historic lows. The Labor Department says that weekly unemployment applications fell by 12,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 232,000.

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fewer Americans applied for jobless aid last week, as the number of people seeking benefits remained close to historic lows.

The Labor Department says that weekly unemployment applications fell by 12,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 232,000. It was the largest decline since mid-July. The less volatile four-week average slipped 500 to 240,500.

Applications closely reflect layoffs. Jobless claims have come in below 300,000 for 128 weeks in a row. That's the longest such stretch since 1970, when the U.S. population was much smaller.

The unemployment rate has fallen to a 16-year low of 4.3 percent. The government's jobs report for July showed that U.S. employers added 209,000 jobs. More Americans have been coming off the sidelines and finding jobs.

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